Aug 13, 2020

Dodging Demolition: Campus spares University Center

Matt Weir / The Collegian

The University Center, located directly across from the University Student Union (USU), is no longer facing demolition. Instead, the campus plans to renovate the building and use it for a central station for campus information and provide improvements in atmosphere and function to students.

The project is not using any state funds, said Robert Boyd of Facilities Management.

“What we’re doing is trying to help ourselves,” he said.

According to the university’s Campus Master Plan, published Jan. of 2008, the University Center building (UC) was to be torn down and completely rebuilt and structured to make a wider plaza area across from the USU, providing more room for passing students to sit and gather. The plan changed and the building will remain intact, at least for now.

“What changed was the economic situation the entire state and everyone else is in,” said Boyd. “ We said we better look at trying to utilize that facility for at least another five-year window.”
The intent of the new building was to form a more defined entry point and exit point from the campus off of Shaw Ave.

“One of the problems that the campus suffers from, it doesn’t have a main identity where you come into campus,” said Boyd. “It really doesn’t let you know that it’s a grander entry that you’ve entered Fresno State.” In the future, in accordance with the original Campus Master Plan, those plans will be implemented down the road, he said.

But for now, the building is soon to become a one-stop center for current and future students and parents to get information on the campus and learn what the university is all about. It will also retain the many food services already in place that students are accustomed to. The renovation is expected to be complete by late spring.

“Having an information center will help students because everything they need to know about programs, campus opportunities, and other services will be in one central location, said Selena Farnesi, executive vice president of Associated Students Inc.. “I think the campus in general will benefit as well because we will have a useable renovated space.”

Farnesi also expressed her gladness that the project had no state money involved, thereby avoiding wasteful spending that could be used for more classes for students.

Although the major overhaul of the UC was postponed indefinitely, the Facilities Management, in charge of managing construction on campus, hopes a fresh coat of paint, the new cement bench that was put in place at the beginning of this fall, and more bike racks coming in the future will help spruce up the building and its surroundings for students and provide a nicer compliment to the Madden Library directly next to it.

“[The racks] would improve the bike parking,” said Pedro Ramirez, ASI president. “That area is in high demand.”

The east end of the UC will be left as is, said Gary Wilson of Facilities Management.

“We don’t want to invest a lot of money out there doing this,” said Wilson. “It’s going to be temporary too, so we’re trying to weigh both sides by what makes sense but also by providing a need.”

The building’s structure is relatively intact, said Boyd, but it’s more of a question of its age.

“It’s 1950’s vintage,” added Boyd. “As a result, it’s getting pretty worn. What we’ve proposed are a few minor modifications that would dress it up.”

“Our biggest challenge now is trying to work around the students”, said Boyd. “When we start putting up the panels, we’ll have fence off and have access for the workers to come in and out and just to make it safe.”

Although most of the renovating is planned for the exterior, parts of the interior are also scheduled for remodeling, causing minor conflicts with services like the Taco Bell Express which had to close its doors temporarily.

“We were notified in late July that we could not reopen our Taco Bell Express in the fall given that our franchise agreement was going to expire and that we could not renew the franchise until we remodeled to meet current franchise requirements,” said Debbie Adishian-Astone, associate vice president for auxiliary operations. “[The remodel] will improve the level of service and menu offerings to our campus community,” said Adishian-Astone. “[It] was needed to improve operating efficiencies and customer experience and to upgrade the look.”

The Taco Bell Express will hopefully reopen in November, said Adishian-Astone, but it may be delayed until December pending the new equipment.

In addition, there will be improved seating and atmosphere in that area of the interior. Currently, there are no further interior modifications that will interfere with food services, said Adishian-Astone.

Currently, the UC building is bare, with the landscape removed and the lettering stripped off. A badly damaged wooden pergola that provided shade nearby was also taken down for safety reasons.

“Right now, [the area is] probably the most ugly it’s been in a long time but that’s all in preparation for the next phase,” said Boyd.

Although the entire plan is not finalized, a new shade structure would materialize during the renovation, said Wilson. Tables and umbrellas would be placed near the building to give students more room to eat, to do homework or to escape the sun but still be outside.

The seating and shade, is most needed the first few months of the semester, said Boyd, when the heat is most intense.

“We’re going to try to give it a facelift and make it more user-friendly,” he said.

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